Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.



I mentioned in an earlier post how Dennis Prager interviewed Elizabeth Becker about her new book Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism. It's been a few weeks since I finished the book and wanted to share a number things that I found particularly interesting. This book focuses on the economic aspects of tourism. The book is broken up into chapters of different countries and focuses on France, Cambodia, Zambia, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, China and America. It also focuses on the cities of Venice and Dubai as well as the cruising industry.

Here's a few random facts that stood out to me...

Travel is one of  the biggest industry in the world, if not the biggest. It is hard to really study the magnitude of the travel industry although the World Tourism Organization in Madrid is taking it on. Travel ranks at least on par with other world leading industries such as oil, finance, trade, and manufacturing. Tourism is the biggest employer in the world with nearly 250 million associated jobs. In 2009, it contributed $5.477 trillion dollars in jobs which equated to 9% of the world's GDP. Tourism creates over $3 billion dollars a DAY in business. In 2012 1 billion people left their home country and traveled abroad.

Started as a marketing gimmick by American Airlines in 1981,  if frequent flyer miles were a currency, they would be worth as much as some of the more valuable countries in the world. In 2005, frequent- flyer miles were worth more than all of the US dollars in circulation, prompting some legislators to wonder if they should be taxed.

France is the most visited country in the world. It welcomes over 78 million visitors a year which bring in more than $48 billion dollars in revenue!!! It beat out the former champion, the US, by understanding how important tourism was to their economy and making it an integral part of their governmental decisions. They always have learned that people are drawn to their country for one reason- the very French-ness. They have capitalized on that and maintained it. Yet the biggest attraction in all of France is Disneyland Paris.

Venice has a population of less than 60,000 yet sees over 20 million tourists visit the city every year. Because the cost of living has become too high for locals, Venice is losing it's authenticity. For example, most people who are buying the famous Murano glass are actually buying glass made in China. Very few real Murano glass shops and factories exist in Venice anymore. On of the few exceptions is L'Isola which is a local artist showroom and off the beaten path. Most visitors will never enter their doors.

Cruising is the fastest growing and most profitable segment of the travel industry. Most cruise ships will headquarter and base out of the US, France, Great Britain or Norway, but they register their ships in a foreign country, such as Liberia. Registering in Liberia will cost the the cruise ships a hefty registration fee, but won't require them to pay income tax, minimum wages, vacation or overtime. The average salary on a cruise ship is $50 a month. The majority of a cruise ship workers pay comes from tips.

Dubai requires more energy per person that any other place in the world. Everything in Dubai is imported. Dubai has the first underwater hotel, 60 feet below sea level. It has the world's tallest building, more than two empire state buildings stacked together. It also has the world's largest artificial islands, costing $12 billion to build. The citizens of Dubai  pay no taxes, no duties, have free housing and subsidized utilities, but there are very few citizens. Of the over 3 million working population, 85% are foreigners. Most of the workers live in labor camps under conditions that would be illegal in most countries.

Africa is the second largest continent, but it's population is less than that of India. While Africa has a reputation for their rain forests and jungles, they only make up 8% of the continent. In the last 15 years Norway has given Zambia over $715 million in developmental aid to underwrite their wildlife conservation. Norway, a  fellow nature country, realizes the need for Africa to safeguard it's natural habitat.

In the 1980's a Swedish school teacher visited Costa Rica and was upset with degradation of the forest. She went back to Sweden and convinced her class to help raise money to buy some land. Her nine year old students collected enough money to purchase 35 acres, but news spread and the campaign grew to schools all over the world. They were eventually able to create the Children's Eternal Rainforest which now encompasses 17,500 acres of untouchable land.

It wasn't until 1991 that Chinese citizens could travel abroad for leisure. In the first years they were required to give a $3,000 surety bond that they would return to China. A number of people never did. Australia and New Zealand were the first countries approved for them to visit. By 2011 the list had grown to 135 countries including the US. Chinese are BIG on shopping and allow it take up over 65% of their travel budget. In 2011 they spend $55 billion dollars worldwide.  In China, it is a crime to own a picture of the Dalai Lama and the penalty for killing a panda bear is death. For the Olympics, China spent $40 billion and moved more than 1 million people from their homes.

In the first decade of the 21st century, tourism increased worldwide by 52%. In the US it only grew by 1.5%. From late 2001-2006 the number of foreign visitors to the US has dropped citing visa issues as the main cause.Vegas, New York and Orlando share the turf for the most visited US Cities. The US National Park system had 285 million visitors in 2009, while the top ten theme park chains saw 326 million. The US is the only wealthy nation that does not require employers to give paid vacations to their employees. Ted Turner is the largest single landowner in the United States. He has bought over 2 million acres of land and put most of it under conservation easement.

This book is full of interesting facts and information about the industry. Instead of hitting the main themes of the book or each chapter, I wanted to relay some of the facts that I found most interesting. If you find this information compelling, then the book is worth a read. The author goes through each chapter talking about tourism and the impact it has had on each country. It really makes you stop and think about the way you travel and how you want to travel in the future. The book tells the story of a young girl in Gambia being asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She answered, "When I grow up I want to be a tourist, because tourist don't have to work and can spend their days sitting in the sun, eating and drinking." Traveling is an enjoyable experience for everyone worldwide, but this book opens up the behind-the-scenes of a past time we all love so much.

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